Map of the Day: Africa’s Health-Environment Nexus

The United Nations Environment Program released a new report on the links between environment and health in Africa.

This is a crucial connection to probe: diahhrea, malaria and respiratory infections account for about 60% of the disease burden in Africa. Environmental factors contribute directly to these diseases. Diarrhea is transmitted by poor access to clean water and sanitation; Malaria is mosquito-borne; and indoor air polution is a leading driver of respiratory infection.

That latter is worth dwelling on for a moment because the world is just becoming fully aware of the sheer scale of this problem. A report in The Lancet last December doubled the estimated annual deaths associated with household air pollution, from 2 million deaths per year to 4 million.

The kind of fuel used in household cooking directly contributes to these deaths. Solid fuels burned inefficiently in poorly ventilated homes emits smoke that is both a health and environmental problem. This map shows the percentage of population using solid fuels.

One emerging way to combat this health and environment problem is through cleaner burning household cookstoves. The development, marketing, distribution, and implementation of clean cookstoves has been a major international development cause over the past few years. (If you want to learn more about this issue, check out the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves, which is on the forefront of efforts to take on household air pollution.)

I encourage folks to skim through this new UNEP report. It provides mounting evidence that we can no longer consider health problems and environmental issues to be in separate silos. They are increasingly one in the same.